These 5 Obstacles to a Consistent Art Practice Have One Solution

There is an important skill an artist needs to develop that almost no one ever talks about. This is the skill that makes the difference between artists who persist and grow, and artists who lose motivation, get discouraged or find long periods of time passing where good intentions to paint regularly are never followed through. So many artists struggle with dry spells and get so frustrated with ourselves; why is it so hard to make time to paint when we say we want to so badly?

The skill I am talking about is consistency. How do you make a habit of consistently showing up, moving your brush to grow your skills when time and fear conspire to keep you out of the studio, doing almost anything else but painting?

Obstacles to a Consistent Creative Practice:

Waiting to be “Ready”

I have a friend who is a student of art. He is always getting excited about a new instructor or a new medium he can’t wait to try. He is the best informed non-painting artist I know, with a studio full of virtually unused supplies. He is waiting for a readiness to paint that he will never feel.

Trusting Your Emotions

Many of the emotions I felt as a new artist that felt like obstacles to painting well are still with me. I still start a new painting with doubt that I can achieve an inspired result. I still feel unqualified to take the next step to grow my career, I still wonder if I am on the right path and have a hard time telling if my painting is finished or if it’s any good at all! If I had waited for a sense of readiness, for confidence or peace about my path as an artist, I might still be waiting to start, or have given up completely.

Judging the Work

When a painting fails to meet your expectations, are you letting it tell you that you are wasting your time? Are you only as good as your last painting? What about when a painting turns out well? Funnily enough, there was a time for me when a successful painting was almost more of a creativity killer than a failed painting. It just felt impossible that I could ever paint something that good ever again, and it made me hesitant to paint again.

Seeking Outside Approval

Are you waiting for permission to make the art you want to make? Your artistic practice isn’t your own if you are painting with an imaginary judge looking over your shoulder. You might hear the voices of family members, art critics, magazine articles, imaginary art buyers – all telling you that your art will be better if…

Your art practice should be your own! Opening it up to these voices and opinions is stifling and limiting; you deserve to be able to be yourself in your art space, but you will have to fight for it.

Excuses

“I don’t have time to paint.”

“I’m not creative.”

“I can’t.”

I don’t know if excuses really deserves a place on this list, because I believe they cover up the real reason your art practice isn’t thriving: fear.

 

“I’m afraid.”

My art practice for nearly 30 years now has been an exercise in uncovering my fears. I have learned that fear is the root of every creative block that has prevented me from being the artist I am truly meant to be. Fear of rejection pushed me to make realism my goal rather than the authenticity and flow that made my heart sing. Fear of discovering my own inadequacy often drives my procrastination; it’s easier to watch another episode on Netflix than to paint and end up with another uninspired, muddy landscape. Fear of my own limitations can actually make me try less; phoning in a lackluster, derivative painting rather than pushing myself to give everything I have to my painting. It’s easy to say that I didn’t have time to paint this week instead of admitting that it’s easier to make myself busy so I don’t have to face another failure in the studio.

So if all of these fears and struggles aren’t going away, how is it possible to create a consistent creative practice and paint authentically from the heart? Today’s prompt for World Watercolor Month is “cheer,” and for me, this is not just a painting prompt but a solution for the struggle to create a consistent creative practice. I can’t erase fear from my life; I keep peeling back layers and finding a little more lurking in the folds. But I can simply and humbly choose to find something to cheer in my art every single day, even when I’m not painting.

 

I cheer the fact that I am hundreds of failed paintings into my art journey, and I’m still painting!

I cheer over the area in each painting that looks like a “real artist” painted it. Even if it’s a single brush stroke, I can let that success be the step forward toward the next painting.

I cheer the learning that happens each time I pick up my brush, watch a painting demonstration or notice a detail in nature that inspires me to paint.

I cheer the failed paintings that show me that I’m still pushing myself to learn new things. Mistakes mean I’m pressing on into unfamiliar territory and growing my skills.

I cheer the empty paint wells that indicate that I am showing up and working my brush.

I cheer for my children who have watched me pursue something that I am passionate about and for the way this will encourage them to prioritize their own creativity.

I cheer for my courage in sharing my most personal art with others and my courage in being willing to fail repeatedly in order to get better at something I deeply want to do well.

I cheer for the way art has made me slow down and live my life with more presence and awareness. And for the deep thread of connection that making art creates between artists.

What can you cheer for in your art journey today? Leave a comment below! 

Recommend0 recommendationsPublished in World Watercolor Month
9 Comments
  1. Edith 4 weeks ago

    So beautifully said and so true… thanks once again!!

  2. Manish D Rajguru 4 weeks ago

    Hi Angela,

    Thanks for this beautiful reminder. Being consistent is the only secret to being successful artist, if there is any secret. I liked the way you have explored various forms of fears. I think the fear of failure is a root for all the excuses you have mentioned. This fear is because of our attachment to an outcome. Making another attempt is in our hand, but we don’t have much control over an outcome. That is so true in case of watercolor, because watercolor is very lively medium.

    If one good painting does not make you good artist, then one bad painting does not make you bad artist either.

    Happy world watercolor month!!

  3. Anita Sinha 4 weeks ago

    How well you have articulated our feelings!💕👌💕

  4. Sandra Strait 4 weeks ago

    Your posts are always so inspiring and always spot on. I’ve been drawing since I could hold a pencil, and painting since I could convince my parents to buy paint for me. Some sixty years later and I still have that fear of failure.

  5. Mitchell Webster 4 weeks ago

    I have dabbled in watercolors since 1978, it was not until I took up oil painting last year, that I became more fluent in my daily watercolor exercises. I find myself working out concepts for oil painting in watercolor, to possibly transfer to oils at a future point. I would say it is like sketching out ideas in my watercolor journal. It is far more costly for me to do these concepts & ideas in oils, than in watercolor, and I use professional grade watercolors. you might say they feed off of one another. I get daily practice in art, for the two different media. I loved your post, it is a very true assessment of all the obstacles that an artist can lay for themselves (not to do something)

    As far as fear of rejection & criticism, I moved on from that years ago, I do what I do, I like it, if you do not, there is a big world out there, look elsewhere~! or better yet, I have found most rejection & criticisms, do not come from artists, rather more from people that never have picked up a brush before. Try it yourself then come and talk to me,

  6. Laura Hale 4 weeks ago

    Thank you for the reminders—so very true! What I enjoyed most of all though, was seeing your art peeking through the “signs”. I always enjoy your art and encouragement!

  7. Janet 4 weeks ago

    Hi Angela, as always you seem to touch on exactly what is going on in my world, like you wrote this just for me but I know it’s for many others too. You are my watercolor guru. Your encouragement gets me excited to get upstairs and put paint and brush to paper. So thanks from the bottom of my heart for your uplifting words. Off to paint now. ❤️🎨👍🏻

  8. Joy Wildman 4 weeks ago

    Dear Angela. I’m crying- because I read this and felt: someone understands! You have encouraged me to keep going in my art practice- not that I planned to give up, but the ways you have described the procrastination, the fears, all that- well, just thank you.

  9. Cathy Joerger 4 weeks ago

    I really needed this today . . .”He is the best informed non-painting artist I know . . . ” . . .But I can simply and humbly choose to find something to cheer in my art every single day, even when I’m not painting.” . . . As always, your words inspire and motivate!

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